Villar's 1st walk-off hit brings 'utter happiness'

Rookie infielder lifts Giants to victory in 10th inning of '22 home finale

October 3rd, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants fans won’t get to enjoy postseason baseball at Oracle Park this year, but the club still managed to give them a satisfying send-off in its home finale on Sunday afternoon.

Rookie David Villar’s two-run single lifted the Giants to a 4-3 walk-off win over the D-backs in 10 innings, clinching a series victory in their final home set of the 2022 campaign.

San Francisco trailed, 3-2, after Arizona plated its automatic runner in the top of the 10th. But the Giants rallied against D-backs right-hander Taylor Widener in the bottom of the inning, as Wilmer Flores drew a leadoff walk and J.D. Davis reached on an infield single to load the bases with no outs.

That brought up Villar, who poked a single through to left field, easily scoring automatic runner Mike Yastrzemski from third. Third-base coach Mark Hallberg then took a gamble by waving home Flores, who scored the game-winning run from second after catcher Carson Kelly couldn’t hang on to left fielder Corbin Carroll’s throw to the plate.

“It was a very aggressive send,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Mark has been excellent, for the most part, at third base. That was an especially aggressive send. It worked out in our favor, and obviously, that makes everything feel good.”

It was Villar's first career walk-off knock and the Giants’ ninth walk-off hit of the season -- the first of which came courtesy of Austin Slater on Opening Day against the Marlins. The last time San Francisco bookended its regular-season home slate with walk-off wins was in 1987.

Villar wasn’t in the Giants’ starting lineup on Sunday, but he came off the bench to pinch-hit for Joc Pederson in the eighth and stayed in to play first base. His mindset leading up to his 10th-inning at-bat against Widener?

“Get something good to hit,” Villar said. “Battling the shadows, it was going to go longer into the at-bat, so I wanted to get my best swing off on the first pitch and try to do something to keep the ball off the ground. Luckily, it squeaked through the six-hole. I was trying to get the ball up in the air, but I was fortunate to be able to get that walk-off for us. 

“It’s just utter happiness.”

With their 11th win in 13 games, the Giants improved to 80-79 and secured a 44-37 mark at Oracle Park this season. They won’t get a chance to play spoiler as they head to San Diego for their final series of the 2022 campaign -- the Padres clinched a National League Wild Card berth on Sunday -- but San Francisco will have an opportunity to finish above .500 if it wins two of its final three games.

“That’s a good note for us heading into San Diego,” Villar said. “We want to take those three games as well.”

Kapler described Villar as “a real important piece of our future,” broadcasting the confidence the Giants have in the 25-year-old infielder’s ability to develop into an impact player in 2023, and beyond. Villar slugged 34 home runs between Triple-A Sacramento and San Francisco this season, earning the River Cats’ Offensive Player of the Year and MVP honors after recording a 1.022 OPS over 84 Triple-A games.

The jump to the Majors hasn’t been seamless -- Villar is batting .218 with a .733 OPS over 49 big league games -- but the Giants have been pleased with the growth he’s shown thus far.

“There are very few rookies who get to the big leagues and tear the cover off the ball immediately,” Kapler said. “Villar has very much held his own. He has hit for some power. He has come up big in important spots, and he’s improved. He’s added second base to his arsenal. He’s going to come into camp next year being able to play all three of those infield positions -- first, second and third. I think he’s certainly validated our internal evaluations of him.”

Villar, for his part, knows he’s far from a finished product and is looking forward to using this season as a stepping stone for 2023.

“I think it’s been up and down,” Villar said. “I had a really good season to start in Triple-A. My first run up here was a tough adjustment to the big leagues. But I think the second time around, I’ve had some good moments, I’ve had some bad moments. All in all, it’s a learning season. Every year, I’ve just got to get better and better and continue to progress. It’s been a very interesting year, but the work’s not done yet. This is my first year up here.”